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Tuesday, January 27, 2009

For the Evolution of Communication Between Motorists

The evolution and eventual civilization of human-kind is greatly attributed to the presence of communication between beings. As our communication techniques improve, we become more civilized and able to appropriately deal with various situations and hardships through many forms of communication. Besides the number of words in any given language, there are multitudes of gestures, sounds and expressions that help us to communicate without speaking. In order to have a successful society, and for people to work together, there must be good communication.

Communication major dimensions scheme

Image via Wikipedia

Currently, and for the past 80-90 years we have been building an alternate society within our society, where people dress up like machines with wheels (yes, I'm talking about cars) and eliminate all familiar forms of communication. We had originally included, and since implemented a few methods of simple communication between these vehicles. This was necessary so that people could exist together on the same streets while wielding these 3.000 lb. machines at high velocities and still retain some semblance of order in this highly volatile environment. As far as I can count the very primitive forms of communication we regularly use now are as follows:

Action Translation
Blinker "I'm changing direction"
Hazard lights "Something's wrong" or "Something's important" or "Watch out"
Horn "Watch out" or "Aahh" or "Hello" or "MOVE!"
Break lights "I'm stopping" or "back off"
Flashing headlights "Something's wrong" or "MOVE!" or "turn on your lights" or "dim your lights" or "Go ahead"
Revving engine "I'm ready to go" or "Hey there" or "I will go fast" or "I rock" or "I'm angry"
Spinning tires "I rock" or "I'm angry"
Yelling out the window Generally "I'm angry for some reason, but I can't tell you exactly why because I'm driving."

All of the above mentioned items are EXTREMELY primitive forms of communication and do not allow for any sort of coherent conveyance of thoughts. All of these things are extremely ambiguous and require contextual evaluation of them before translating them. In other words they could each mean many different things depending on a lot of other factors including driver mood or demeanor which is generally undetectable unless the drivers are in close proximity. There are a couple more forms of communication like swerving or speeding, but those are even more ambiguous than those shown above.

Common Chimpanzee  in Cameroon's South Province

Image via Wikipedia

Chimpanzees have many more methods of communication than the above list. Many audible forms include hoots and barks that convey and are understood by others as feelings of "fear", "puzzlement", "enjoyment", "annoyance", "rage", "distress" and "excitment". Already leaps and bounds ahead of todays motorists. Additionally, body language is extensively used among chimps, which is inherently impossible when driving an automobile, but can be related to speeding and swerving amogst other things that I mentioned are very hard to decipher concrete meaning from.

The more cars we add to the streets the more essential it is that we improve this system of communication. It seems that the majority of people, at least in the Northeast US have surprisingly stopped using blinkers, which contribute to a large percentage of the communication between vehicles. Besides being one of the originally designed communication features, it is also one of the clearest concepts for other drivers to interpret.

The automotive industry has obviously made enourmous progress since it's conception. Competition is stiff, improvements are made, and conveniences are added to every model, every year. And recently the stress has been on fuel consumption (which has a great deal of merit these days) but I feel that there is no urgency to address the language barrier between motorists.

How do you feel we can improve communication on the streets to avoid road rage?

1 comment:

  1. Here's an idea adapted from the lowly squid:
    As a car approaches another car close enough to be tail gating, the first car should have a sensor that automatically releases an ink cloud forcing the offending car to back off!


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